Courtesy of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation (Published in Spirit, The Voice of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation)
Like many other people facing end-of-life, Carl Schlosser wanted to die at home. Like many other families, Carl’s family, especially his wife Celine, wanted to support him in those wishes. But unfortunately, and again as too frequently happens, the reality of dying at home became much more complex than previously imagined.
“We were just scrambling for help,” Celine says, painfully aware of how burnt out she was feeling. Her sister, a nurse, moved in to assist Celine and the other caregivers, but soon she too began to burn out.
As Carl’s health deteriorated, he required more and more support. His declining mobility eventually made it difficult for anyone to leave the house because he was highly dependent on his family for his care. Further to that, ambulance workers came in daily to hydrate him and the Palliative Home Care Team arrived every morning to assist with a variety of Carl’s other needs. Care aides came in both morning and evening to bathe him and for the transfers in and out of bed.
“I was struggling,” Celine says. “It was the day after Halloween and I knew we were in trouble.” Carl and his family wanted to get a bed in St. Paul’s Palliative Care Unit and knew how difficult that would be as the unit was always operating at capacity. In desperation, Celine was praying for an intervention. At 9:00 p.m. that night the phone rang and it was the Palliative Care Unit. “I was like, oh my goodness, we had a bed! I felt like we’d won the lottery.”
The next morning when the ambulance came to pick up Carl, Celine felt conflicted: “I knew this was the last time we would have Carl at home, but I knew we had to go.”
Carl’s move to Palliative Care allowed Celine to be his wife again, instead of his caregiver. “We spent some beautiful moments with him. We went for wheelchair rides every day. The kids came, our son took time off work for the whole time we were there and our daughter took as much time as she could.”
In the Palliative Care Unit, Celine knew that Carl’s physical needs were being well cared for, so his family could focus their precious remaining time together on what mattered most — being a family.
“It was the next best thing to home and we had three weeks and two days there,” Celine said. “It was such a gift to our family. I am sure it gave Carl dignity. We couldn’t have done it without Palliative [Care].”
After Carl’s death, Celine looked into ways through which she could “give back” to St. Paul’s Hospital, and particularly to the Palliative Care Unit. She heard about the Close to Home Campaign for Hospice and End-of-life Care, and decided to become an advocate and donor.